Episode 4: Faith Transformations
February 14, 2023
In this episode of Quakers Today we ask, How has your view of Jesus, God, or religion changed since you were young?
- Hayden Hobby was raised in an evangelical church. He reflects on leaving an abusive God and finding a new way of expressing faith. For Quakers Today Hayden talks about the experience that led him to write the essay “Surviving Religious Trauma: How I Left an Abusive God.” Today he studies in a program taught jointly by Bethany Theological Seminary and Earlham School of Religion.
- Calliope George, a young adult and lifelong Quaker, continues to find her place in Quaker meetings. She talks about community within her age group and beyond. You can find the full video and other QuakerSpeak videos at the QuakerSpeak YouTube channel, or visit Quakerspeak.com
- You will also hear about a new book that explores forests around the world. In The Tree Line: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth, Ben Rawlence connects with Indigenous leaders who have been guardians of threatened wild spaces. He hopes his readers will learn how to think like a forest.
You will find a complete transcript of this episode below after the show notes.
After this episode concludes, we share voicemails from listeners who answered the question, How has your view of Jesus, God, or religion changed since you were young?
Question for next month
In the March issue of Friends Journal, various writers will share their experiences, insights, and opinions about the many ways people found or failed to find community online during the COVID-19 lockdown. They raise questions about the merits and limitations to virtual Quaker meetings for worship, and they highlight best practices that worked for some.
What about you? What are your thoughts and feelings about virtual online communities or worship? Leave a voice memo with your name and the town where you live. The number to call is 317-QUAKERS, that’s 317-782-5377. 317-Quakers. +1 if calling from outside the USA.
Quakers Today is the companion podcast to Friends Journal and other Friends Publishing Corporation (FPC) content online.
Season One of Quakers Today is sponsored by Quaker Voluntary Service (QVS).
Are you a young adult between 21 and 30 years old? Do you know a young adult who is looking for community and purpose-driven work? QVS is a year-long fellowship for young adults. Fellows work at nonprofits while building community and exploring Quakerism. Visit quakervoluntaryservice.org or find QVS on Instagram @quakervoluntaryservice.
Feel free to send comments, questions, and requests for our new show. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Music from this episode comes from Epidemic Sound. You heard Timelapse by Phello, Sweeping Grounds by Major Tweaks, Pray by Gamma Skies, Final Wish by Dreem, and Smoky Smoky by John Runefelt.
Transcript for Quakers Today Episode Four: Faith Transformations
Peterson Toscano, Calliope George, Hayden Hobby
Peterson Toscano 00:00
In this episode of Quakers Today we ask, “How has your view of Jesus, God, or religion changed since you were young?”
Peterson Toscano 00:08
Hayden Hobby was raised in an evangelical church. He reflects on leaving an abusive God and finding a new way of expressing faith. Calliope George, a young adult and lifelong Quaker, continues to find her place in Quaker meetings. She talks about community within her age group and beyond. And I will tell you about a new book that explores forests around the world. In The Tree Line, Ben Rawlence connects with indigenous leaders who have been guardians of threatened wild spaces. He hopes his readers will learn how to think like a forest.
Peterson Toscano 00:46
I’m Peterson Toscano. This is the fourth episode of Quakers today, a project of Friends Publishing Corporation. The first season of Quakers Today is sponsored by Quaker Voluntary Service.
Peterson Toscano 00:59
Hayden Hobby is a youth worker and worship leader in Richmond, Virginia. He is also currently working toward a master’s in spiritual and social transformation. He studies in a program taught jointly by Bethany Theological Seminary, and Earlham School of Religion. Hayden wrote the essay Surviving Religious Trauma, How I left an Abusive God. I asked him to share some of his story and to read excerpts from the piece.
Hayden Hobby 01:29
I’m a lifelong follower of Jesus, among a lot of other things. It just had a really big impact on my life. It had good and bad impacts on my life along the way. But it’s definitely been a really big part of my identity. I still would say that I identify as a Christian. But I like saying that I’m a follower of Jesus, because it puts a little bit of distance between what I think of as the religion and then what I think of as the lifestyle, the action, and the practices, and the lived out expression of what we think of as Christianity.
Hayden Hobby 02:07
I was raised in a hyper conservative, evangelical Christian tradition that believes sin deserves severe and eternal punishment, and Jesus bore that punishment, wrath and abandonment of God that my sense deserved. I was taught that no matter how good I thought myself to be, I deserved hell just for existing and had it not been for Jesus’ death. That’s exactly what I would get. The resulting religious trauma that I sustained from this backward theology as a child and young adult wasn’t physical, but it was emotional and psychological. And like most forms of trauma, it was still the result of violence.
Hayden Hobby 02:42
As a result, I spent a lot of formative years trying to somehow hold and understand the paradox that God loved me, and wanted to spend eternity in Heaven with me, but would just as quickly damn me to eternal hellfire for not believing in Jesus. That’s a big contradiction to attempt to hold as a 13 year old. And eventually my faith broke like a wishbone.
Hayden Hobby 03:04
The wishbone really felt like a fitting metaphor for a few reasons. One, because I think so many of us have experienced that crack that comes when a wishbone is split. And in so many ways, I kind of felt that within my own self, at some point, like my faith kind of just snapped. But then there’s also this kind of sense of luck or good fortune around wishbones as well, this kind of like, sense of things will go well, one way or not well, the other way. And in many ways, I feel like I got lucky or might say blessed and fortunate in the way that my faith broke. And that I think that eventually made my faith strong. Whereas I saw so many people who’s had similar splits and cracks in their faith. Not as fortunate as I did.
Hayden Hobby 03:50
Yeah, there was definitely a lot of fear and shame associated with where I was in my kind of faith trajectory at that point. The fear of breaking down something that had been such a secure source of Yeah, source of security for me for such a long time and the shame of it’s, it’s really hard to put your finger on exactly what it is that causes all of the shame in that process. But there is a lot going on there.
Hayden Hobby 04:15
I think a huge part for me, again, kind of in overcoming those things was just in a helpful way, getting away from some of the communities and people that would not have allowed me to be in that space. And it’s so easy to just want to jump from one thing right into something else, just because you really know that you need to get out of whatever it is but you hate the idea of being nowhere. And I think that there’s an innate truth in our desire to be somewhere to be with a group interview with other people who will look out for us. I think that’s something that can work in our benefit generally, but I think there are times when it is most healthy for a time to be okay with being nowhere while you figure out where it is that you need to be.
Hayden Hobby 05:08
It’s so important to be mindful of, of why something was written and who it was written to, and the culture and the context around how scripture was written. But it’s so so beautiful that we can draw so many things out of these stories and these parables that can have so much meaning for us in so many different ways.
Hayden Hobby 05:24
(Reading from his article) Who we perceive God to be drastically impacts the way that we live our lives. In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, a man goes on a journey and leaves his servants with shares of his property, one with five talents, the second one too, and the last one. The first to go and invest their talents making more for the master when he returns. But the other servant, it says, went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. When confronted, the servant says, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.”
Hayden Hobby 06:11
So unlike the others, this servant receives very harsh treatment from his master who takes away his talent and gives it to the one who now has 10. Jesus concludes this parable by saying “To anyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not even what he has will be taken away.” One of the main conclusions to be drawn from this parable is the importance of capitalizing on the gifts God gives you.
Hayden Hobby 06:39
However, I think another equally important conclusion may be drawn about how our perceptions of God impact our actions and God’s perceived reactions. The quote unquote wicked servant in this parable, chooses not to invest his master’s money out of fear because he knew him to be a hard man. When we think of God as hard or strict, we will always bury the gifts that God gives us, afraid of the anger that losing them might prompt. However, like the master in the parable, the God who prompts fear, will not be happy with our response, and any hardship we endure will inevitably be seen as a punishment for our lack of faith.
Hayden Hobby 07:19
If, however, we’re able to see ourselves as those who have received the most, we may begin to understand the fearless servant who invests the gift of faith, knowing that regardless of the outcome, it’s not punishment that awaits, but a joyful welcome of “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Hayden Hobby 07:38
I’ve found a lot of hope, in the past couple of years in seeing how much I’ve been able to progress from this kind of dark place of questioning and not really knowing what to make of my faith, or how it would impact my life into having a really messy but beautiful faith that’s still growing and still being put back together. I don’t think that’s something that’s really ever going to end. I think my whole life is gonna be this process of fitting pieces together and growing and figuring out what it means to be a spiritual person in a physical and spiritual world.
Peterson Toscano 08:17
That was Hayden Hobby, sharing his essay, “Surviving Religious Trauma, How I left an Abusive God.” it appears in the February 2023 issue of Friends Journal, you can also read it at FriendsJournal.org.
Calliope George 08:33
I was first introduced to Quakerism as a two year old,I believe. I am Calliope George, currently living at Pennington friend’s house in New York City. Learning so much about the Quaker process, as a child, gave me tools to really listen and search for conversation and understanding. It became very much part of my life. Quakerism was always a very grounding space for me throughout my whole life. But in college, when I was away from my home community, I started to feel that longing for the space of home and stillness and reflection that Quakerism really brought. Young people’s schedules look very different from a lot of weighty friend schedules. That’s really beautiful to be able to have intergenerational relationships with one another and be able to spend time together. I think sharing actual time and space together, whether virtually or in person that’s really important that we do that and practice that.
Calliope George 09:34
That being said, friends, regardless of age, are going to have different responsibilities in their own personal lives that sometimes don’t allow for as much contribution. Recognizing that and giving space to thank those who recognize that and are still able to be warm and welcoming and inviting for when friends do have time and space is beautiful. And I really really appreciated all of the communities I’ve been part of acknowledging that can be difficult to balance sometimes, but always, always being open and inviting.
Calliope George 10:06
This idea of constant conversation and queries and looking within and seeing good in other people and other things, finding bridges to have hard conversations,I think my generation really appreciates that. And in a lot of ways is searching for that. Continuing to be spaces where we uplift those challenging conversations and provide tools to have tough conversations is really really important. Now more than ever, that’s something that I incredibly appreciate.
Peterson Toscano 10:42
That was Calliope George and an excerpt from the QuakerSpeak video “My Experience as a Young Adult Friend.” You will find the full video and other QuakerSpeak videos at the QuakerSpeak channel on YouTube, or visit Quakerspeak.com. The series is produced by Rebecca Hamilton Levy. New videos come out every other Thursday.
Peterson Toscano 11:06
One of the positive changes that came about during the COVID 19 lockdowns was the increased appreciation of being out in nature. individuals and small groups went on hikes, read in parks, meditated in their backyards, or just looked out their windows. And his new book, The Tree Line, The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth, Ben Rawlence writes, “If we want to be part of the assemblage of species, that co-evolves to survive the coming upheaval, then we need to revive that essential entanglement with other living things. We all need to learn once again to think like a forest.”
Peterson Toscano 11:47
Rawlence journeys around the world to see many forest and tree species. This includes the balsam poplar in Manitoba, Canada. Rawlence writes, “The indigenous people who have lived here ever since the land rose out of the water and their creation myth around 1000 years ago. They do not imagine humans as separate from the land, but as part of a total system, one organism.”
Peterson Toscano 12:18
Ruah Swennerfelt in a review of the book says it is…”beautifully written, almost poetic at times. Author Ben Rawlence takes us on a deeply felt journey encircling the globe and the boreal forest, a green lung ,that is a nearly continuous green ring, and essential to the planet’s health. By inviting the reader to meet the trees and the indigenous people who depend upon them, Rawlance helps the reader to understand how the trees and the cultures are intertwined, and how seriously they are physically and culturally endangered from climate change.”
Peterson Toscano 12:57
The book is The Tree Line, The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth by Ben Rawlence. It was published by St. Martin’s Press. It’s available wherever you get books. You can read Ruah Swennerfelt’s full review of the book in the February issue of Friends Journal, or over at friendsjournal.org. Do you have a recommendation for a book podcast game or new music? Let us know. Email your suggestions to podcast at friends journal.org.
Peterson Toscano 13:28
Thank you for joining me for this episode of Quakers Today. A big thank you to the folks who have been sharing this podcast with their friends and on social media. Quakers Today is written and produced by me Peterson Toscano. Music on today’s show comes from Epidemic Sound.
Peterson Toscano 13:48
Visit QuakersToday.org to see our show notes and a full transcript of this episode. And if you stick around after the closing, you will hear listeners’ responses to the question, “How has your view of Jesus God or religion changed since you were young?”
Peterson Toscano 14:08
Season One of Quakers today is sponsored by Quaker Voluntary Service. Are you between 20 to 30 years old? Are you looking for community and purpose driven work? Well then consider applying to QVS,a year long Fellowship for Young Adults. Fellows work at nonprofits while building community and exploring Quakerism. Applications are open through February 28 2023. Visit Quakervoluntaryservice.org/apply and follow QVS on Instagram at Quakervoluntaryservice.
Peterson Toscano 14:46
As host of this show, I’d love to hear your comments questions and request. email: podcast@FriendsJournal.org. Thank you friend. I look forward to spending more time with you soon.